What Is Tuberculosis?
TB is spread from person to person through the air. When a person coughs or sneezes, the bacteria travel into the air and may be inhaled by a person standing nearby.
The bacteria may be inhaled, but it may not necessarily cause infection or illness right away. It can remain dormant in the body, but may become active and cause symptoms at any time.
At one point, TB was the leading cause of death in the US. As treatments were developed, the rates began to drop. Today, there are many fewer cases.
TB is still a major health problem in Africa. This is largely due to the high number of people with
Symptoms depend on where the bacteria have settled and grown in the body. The lungs are frequently infected. Symptoms of TB infection in the lungs include:
- A cough that is persistent for three weeks or longer
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood or phlegm
- Loss of appetite
- Fever and chills
- Night sweats
TB can be treated with antibiotics. Without treatment, the disease is often fatal.
What Is the BCG vaccine?
The Bacille Calmette-Guerin vaccine, or BCG, prevents TB.
The vaccine contains live, weakened bacteria. It is given as shot in the muscle.
Who Should Get Vaccinated and When?
The following individuals should be considered for vaccination:
Primarily intended for use in children:
- It is widely given in the developing world.
- In the developed world, it may be given in certain cases. For example, a child may get the vaccine if he is around adults who have TB.
- Healthcare workers and people who work in labs
- People who live or work in highly populated facilities (eg, nursing homes, hospitals, prisons)
The vaccine is usually given once. It may be given twice in some cases.
What Are the Risks Associated With BCG Vaccine?
The vaccine may cause a TB skin test to have a false-positive reading. This means that you may test positive for TB even though you do not have it.
Common side effects of the vaccine include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Redness at the injection site
- Bloody, frequent, or painful urination
- Abdominal discomfort or vomiting
Symptoms of an allergic reaction (eg, rash, trouble breathing) require medical care right away.
Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?
You should not get the vaccine if you:
- Have a compromised immune systems, such as those who are infected with HIV/AIDS
- Are undergoing an organ transplant
- Are pregnant
Because TB is airborne, prevention of airborne transmission is important.
What Happens in the Event of an Outbreak?
Containing the virus depends on giving antibiotics and isolating people who are infected. It is important to take all of the antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria and to avoid spreading it to others.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease
US National Library of Medicine
Pediatric tuberculosis fact sheet. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lungusa.org/site/pp.asp?c=dvLUK9O0Eb=35778. Accessed February 6, 2007.
BCG vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/tb/pubs/tbfactsheets/bcg.htm. Accessed February 6, 2007.
Questions and answers about TB. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/tb/faqs/qa_introduction.htm#Intro1. Accessed February 6, 2007.
Last reviewed November 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2007 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.